Sherwood soccer players storm the field as the final seconds expire in the GISA Class AA state championship game Saturday night at Frederica Academy. Sherwood defeated Monsignor Donovan 3-0 for its first state title in any sport. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
SAINT SIMONS ISLAND — With less than two minutes left Saturday night, the Sherwood Christian Academy bench began to celebrate quietly.
A few minutes later, their quiet celebration turned into a full blown eruption — on the field
The Lady Eagles slew a giant named Monsignor Donovan in the GISA Class AA state soccer championship game at Frederica Academy. Sherwood shut down the Lady Rams, 3-0, and made history in the process, becoming the first athletic program at the school to win a state title.
“This is indescribable,” said junior forward Katelyn Cuff, who scored the team’s first goal of the game at the 14:37 mark.
“I know the whole team made history. This is just great.”
The Lady Eagles (21-2-1) won their 15th straight, using the same defensive formula that helped them shut out Arlington Christian, Trinity Christian, First Presbyterian Christian and Monsignor Donovan in the state tournament.
According to the GISA statistics website, the Lady Rams had allowed just two goals the entire season.
The Lady Eagles’ offense made a statement, but it was their defense that stole the show. They played stout in the field and so did goalkeeper Hannah Thompson, who registered six saves, including a crucial one when she batted the ball over the bar late to preserve the shutout.
“The defense really set the tone,” Sherwood coach Jason Schultz said. “Hannah made some great saves. What else can I say? Our defensive play says it all.”
Unlike their past two postseason victories when the Lady Eagles didn’t score until the second half, they used a late first-half goal from Cuff to get the offense going.
However, Cuff’s heroics wouldn’t have happened without sophomore forward Kylee Harrod, whose attempt from the left side ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s hands and bounced slowly away to the right side. The ball seemed to lay on the ground for a few seconds before a charging Cuff drilled the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Harrod had just missed on three previous attempts.
“When I took that left-footed shot, I thought , ‘Okay, I’m going for it,’ ” Harrod said. “I’m right-footed. But it ricocheted off their goalie, and I’m glad Katelyn went and got it.”
Cuff said she couldn’t believe the loose ball was on the ground so long.
“It seemed like a million years the ball laid on the ground,” Cuff said. “I could have swore it bounced off the post before it went in. Then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just scored the first goal in the state championship game. I can’t believe it.’ “
The Lady Rams’ best chance to score came in the final seconds of the first half. Thompson left the box to defend an outside shot. However, Monsignor Donovan quickly tried to score with Thompson out of position and scrambling back. But Christina Charles kicked the ball out to thwart the Lady Rams’ chance at tying.
Cuff said Schultz told the team at halftime that one goal was not going to be enough.
Thompson kept the Lady Rams off the board when she speared a penalty kick attempt at the 31:05 mark of the second half. Minutes later, Harrod didn’t fail the second time around. She somehow slipped past a herd of defenders, took a pass from Kendalyn Stone and gave the Lady Eagles some cushion at the 27:34 mark with Sherwood’s second goal.
Monsignor Donovan had no chance to come back when King put the finishing touches on the victory, netting the final goal off an assist from Stone with 8:22 left.
“We took their central defender out, then played in behind that central defender,” Schultz said. “That gave us the second goal. We ended up actually only needing just one goal, but those last two goals crushed them. It was a total team effort. We’re blessed, and we give God all the praise and the glory.”
When the final horn sounded, a wild celebration erupted with Sherwood’s fans and a large group of students that made the trip.
“This is something I’ll never forget,” King said. “I’m going to be jumping up and down the rest of the week, remembering this right here. This is something God blessed us with, and we’re going to be grateful to him forever and ever.”